Grape Madness Championship Game: Bodega Norton vs. Chateau Chevalier

Grape Madness Championship Game: Blind TastingGrape Madness Championship Game: Bodega Norton vs. Chateau Chevalier

And then there were 2 bottles left standing. Tonight one of them goes home a champion, another faced with always remembering how close they came. The competitors are (3) 2007 Bodega Norton Malbec ($8) hailing from Cost Plus World Market vs. (1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($15) which emerged from the Trader Joe’s bracket.

No one needs a reminder of the rules, the gloves are off. One more round of blind tasting. This time with all four of us tasting and tabulating the scores to see the winner. How did these two advance to the dance? Let’s take a quick look:

  • The Bodega Norton pulled off an upset in the opener taking down the 337 Cab 82-76. Next it torched another upstart in the Aaku 82-65. In the Cost Plus regional final it went down to the wire before the Norton downed the Show 82-81 in OT. After taking down three Cabs it was matched against the winner of the BevMo regional, the Talus Pinot Noir, and was an easy winner 84-74. Who do they face in the finals? Another Cab, if history holds you have to like their odds.
  • The Chateau Chevalier walked unchallenged to the finals. Winning handily against Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet, Fetzer Cabernet, and Rosenblum Zinfandel to advance to the Final Four. Here it met the Stephen Vincent winning 90-86 to advance to the finals. Given I am coaching this wine I am really liking its chances to coast to the title.

With pregame covered we would typically head to my twitter feed for some play by play action, but to be honest I am still recovering from the crazy events that unfolded this evening. The bottles were bagged, numbered, opened and poured. I put my nose in #1 and was thrust back into my chair. Goodness that is hot. Hope that blows off, that is not the nose of a champion. This Malbec is in trouble. The nose on #2 was muted, perhaps because my nostrils were burned… Back to #1, started to blow off, you could now find some oak lingering beneath the oppressing heat. On the palate you found fruit followed by pepper, leading to a tart, tangy finish. #2 has some fruit up front, that soured and ended a bit thin. Not what I remember from the Chevalier. Up by 1 at half but no one is playing to win. Disappointed in their showing I let them have it in the locker room. Where is the chalky finish, the silky smooth shooting?

Apparently they had nothing left in reserve, showing sour cherry flavors that led to some unpleasant cough syrup action. I was very disappointed in #2 as I expected so much more from the winner of the Trader Joe’s regional. In the mean time, #1 was settling in nicely, the heat was ebbing and the oak notes began to intermingle with some mint. In fact, it was starting to taste too good, this damn Norton taking down my team. I must have mixed them up so I poured out both glasses to reset the shot clock for the final 5 minutes. Dammit! Back in the glass and I didn’t mix them up. If #1 had a finish it could walk away with the title. Come on #2 show me that magic we shared the last few weeks. Alas, with time running out #1 squared up and dropped the winning jump shot as time expired to win 88-87.

And that is when all hell broke loose. You see I was there, coaching #2, and there is no way that shot got off before the buzzer. I run over to the ref and state my case. They have a conference. Decide to review the tape. Minutes pass. More minutes pass. They call it off! #2 is the champ 87-86. I start to do my dance, no trust me you don’t want to see. They bring the championship t-shirts out on the floor. I put mine on, then I turn to Team #2 to see if they are doing the same. Sure enough, off comes the brown bags… WTF!!!! Bodega Norton! I’ve been coaching Bodega Norton this whole time! Wait, forget what I said about that last second jumper… wait, a little initial heat on the nose crossed me up this much… wait, no no no… This can’t be the end, but it is and the Bodega Norton Malbec is cutting down the nets as the champions of the initial Grape Madness tournament.

Bodega Norton Malbec 87 – Chateau Chevalier Cabernet 86

Grape Madness Round #4: Stephen Vincent vs. Chateau Chevalier

 Grape Madness Round #4: Blind TastingGrape Madness Round #4: Stephen Vincent vs. Chateau Chevalier
From 32 wines, 4 remain.  Another will be sent home today.  Who will move on?  Today’s show down is between (2) 2006 Stephen Vincent Crimson ($11) hailing from Whole Foods vs. (1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($15) which calls Trader Joe’s home.

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one to keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). As in round 3 we were performing joint tasting. I was again paired up with RJ from RJ’s Wine Blog for this effort.  Before we jump in, let’s look back and see how these two got here:

  • The Stephen Vincent played a tight game with the Castle Rock Pinot but ultimately prevailed 88-85. Velvety in color, nose of light red fruit. Nice richness on the palate and a zinging sourness on the finish. CastThey pulled this one out with a balanced team-effort.
  • The Chateau Chevalier ignored the Rosenblum Jekyll and Hyde routine scoring a 90-86 victory. Big dark fruit on the nose. Super Balanced on the palate with lush flavors leading to a dry chalky finish. This wine is humble and restrained throughout. The Chateau Chevalier delivered with consistency.

With pregame covered let’s get to the real action via my twitter news feed…

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Stephen Vincent looks overheated, coming up short on the finish. Chevalier playing big again leads 18-12 15:48 left in the 1st
jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Chevalier‘s silky smooth finish is draining shots from the outside. Stretching the lead to 39-31 with 2:02 left in the 1st

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Stephen Vincent made a nice run showing rich berry fruit and finishing a little stronger, still trailing 45-39 at half

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Chevalier is in a gear Vincent doesn’t have. Deep flavors and a chalky long range finish, they lead 59-49 with 12:13 to go

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Vincent giving a noble effort but is spread to thin, the sour finish likely reflects their mood trailing 79-65 3:58 remaining

jasonswineblog: Vincent pulls back some at the end when Chevalier benches its starters. Game over Chevalier advances to the #GrapeMadness finals 90-86.

The score makes this one look a lot closer that it was.  The Chevalier dominated this game from start to finish!  Here’s a quick review of each:

2006 Stephen Vincent Crimson ($11): What before seemed balanced and rich became thin and underwhelming in this contest.  Didn’t have the chops to go against the big boys. Rating: Not for me

2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($16): What consistency!  A nose loaded with dark fruit.  Rich flavors leading to the lasting, trademarked dry chalky finish.  This wine feels like it just keeps going and it is.  On to the finals…Rating: Wow

Word is in from the southern regional that the Bodega Norton Malbec has beaten the Talus Pinot.  That leaves two wines standing and a championship date.  The Chevalier vs. the Norton.  Tune in Monday for the exciting finale!

Grape Madness Round #3: Stephen Vincent vs. Castle Rock

 Grape Madness Round #3: Blind TastingGrape Madness Round #3: Stephen Vincent vs. Castle Rock
The road to the Final Four for the Whole Foods bracket was a show down between (2) 2006 Stephen Vincent Crimson ($11) vs. (2) 2007 Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County ($12).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one to keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). A change for round 3 is that we were performing joint tasting. I paired up with RJ from RJ’s Wine Blog for this effort just as I did or the Trader Joe’s bracket earlier this week. Before we jump in, let’s look back on the first round match-ups to see how these two got here:

  • The Stephen Vincent came to play and the results showed as it upended the Klinker Brick 89-86. RJ had this to say “The Stephen Vincent had a nice fruit and earthy blend. Good solid acidity kept the wine vibrant and alive throughout. My old friend menthol delivered a punch on the nose that I’d come to expect and love from the Crimson”
  • The Castle Rock fought tough and prevailed over the York Creek 88-87. Rj had this to say “Alive, vibrant and well balanced, but I was searching for a little more fruit to go with its earthy, spicy blend. In the end, mostly because of its more lively edge, the Castle Rock Pinot Noir prevailed.

With pregame covered let’s get to the real action via my twitter news feed. This was the closest game to date.

jasonswineblog: Whole Foods #GrapeMadness final underway. Castle Rock starts strong (on grape roids?) leading Stephen Vincent 21-19 13:41 left in the 1st..
jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Stephen Vincent running balanced attack. Castle Rock is bigger (aromas and fruit) but SV leads 39-36. 2:00 to go in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Tight game at half. Neck and neck with Stephen Vincent leading Castle Rock 43-39.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Stephen Vincent shows richness on the palate but the sourness on finish allows Castle Rock to keep it close. 57-56 12:48 to go..

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness A nail biter. Big fruit on Castle Rock hiding flaws vs. balanced play hiding a tart finish for SV. Tied at 72 4:04 to go.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Castle Rock surging, not playing a team game. Can super star fruit carry them to the Final Four. They lead 81-79 1:56 to go.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Closest game of the tourney. Castle Rock clinging to a lead despite sub par team play. Can it last? They lead 84-83 0:44 to go

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Castle Rock inbounding throw it away, SV scores and leads 85-84 with 0:28 to play

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Castle Rock fouled at the line. Makes 1 of 2. Tied at 85 with 0:21 to play

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness SV nails a three from deep in the corner. Still balanced, calm under pressure. They lead 88-85 with 0:09 left to play
jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Again Castle Rock has inbounds issues, pass intercepted. Clock run out. Stephen Vincent advances 88-85!


This one was an played tight to the finish but ultimately the winemaker’s fingerprint did in the Castle Rock.  Though they did their best to balance the wine making there was clearly a rogue component about to disrupt all their had work.  Lack of team work prevented the Castle Rock from moving to the Final Four. I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Stephen Vincent Crimson ($11): Velvety in color, nose of light red fruit. Whiffs of strawberry for sure, A bit of heat hidden in the aromatics as well. Nice richness on the palate. This one came to play. Balanced team-effort makes this the squad to beat despite the zinging sourness on the finish. Rating: Pricey

2007 Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County ($12):This one left me immediately conflicted, am I rating on my own palate or should I consider the masses? Dark fruit said yes but there was danger lingering on the peripheral of the taste buds. In the end this was a good team that didn’t play hard enough. Had the skill set to win but couldn’t bring it to bear. The outsider was lurking thourgout and had a few turnovers that sealed the deal for the Stephen Vincent late in the game. That said the Castle Rock may have broader appeal to the masses. Rating: Pricey

That’s a wrap, stay tuned for the finale of the Elite 8 tomorrow. Who will join Talus, Stephen Vincent and Chateau Chevalier in the Final Four. Bodega Norton Malbec vs. The Show Cab for the last spot in the dance. In the mean time see what RJ had to say or check the latest standings on the contest scoreboard.

Grape Madness Round #3: Chateau Chevalier vs. Rosenblum

 Grape Madness Round #3: Blind TastingGrape Madness Round #3: Chateau Chevalier vs. Rosenblum
The third round in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney kicked off with the (1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($15) vs. (1) 2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zin ($16).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one to keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). A change for round 3 is that we were performing joint tasting.  I paired up with RJ from RJ’s Wine Blog for this effort and will do so for the Whole Foods bracket come Saturday.  Before we jump in, let’s look back on the first round match-ups to see how these two got here:

  • The Chateau Chevalier ran away from the Fetzer cruising to an easy win 91-78 victory.  This was its 2nd runaway victory in a row.  Could that be a weakness come round 3?  With depth, dark fruit aromas and brambly cherry flavors leading to a nice lingering finish I’m guessing not.  But we are about to find out!
  • The Rosenblum had a tough match versus the Bogle but prevailed 90-87. My notes highlighted a rich, dark fruity nose with earthy and barrel components with a silky smooth palate full of dense, lush dark fruit flavors leading to a chalky finish with slight tannins. There was some early heat that disipated with time.  I was concerned it may not have the pedigree to go all the way despite being a fan favorite.

With pregame covered let’s get to the real action via my twitter news feed:

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Elite 8 is under way. Chateau Chevalier rich, balanced and restrained attack grabs an early lead 11-8 16:12 left in the 1st.
jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum started too hot (on the finish) but is settling in. Tough Chevalier D has them trailing 32-26 2:00 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness At half Rosenblum streaky play has dug a 39-32 deficit. Chevalier has brought their “A” game. Can they mount a comeback?

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum evolved nicely during the break and is making a run. Closed the deficit to 61-57 with 12:00 left in 2nd half.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum shows differently each time down the court. Chevalier isn’t bothered, keeps playing its game. Leads 72-65 4:09 left.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum keeps it interesting but needed more Dr. Jekyll and less Mr. Hyde. Chevalier quality game prevails winning 90-86.


This one was an interesting match up.  Mostly because I never knew what each sip of the Rosenblum would bring.  Depsite that the Chateau Chevalier led this one from wire to wire and advances to the Final Four where it awaits the winner of the Whole Foods bracket winner. I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($16): Again this one ran the table.  The Rosenblum had smoke and mirrors going but the Chateau Chevalier delivered with consistency.  Big dark fruit on the nose.  Super Balanced on the palate with lush flavors leading to a dry chalky finish.  This wine is humble and restrained throughout.  I’m liking its chance to go all the way though that finish may not be for everyone.  Rating: Wow

2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zinfandel ($16):This one started off in a funk again.  The nose was hot and full of dark fruits and rhubarb for me.  RJ was finding some Pina Colada action…  Every sip brought a different wine.  My initial rating started around 82 points before it escalated to the 86 where it finished.  Given more time I am guessing it would have progressed more but the fatal flaw was that it was falling apart on the finish.  At this price point, depsite the fact that it got this far, that is not something I am willing to overlook.  There are better Zin’s available, both generally and from Rosenblum on the market.  Rating: Not for me

That’s  a wrap, stay tuned for more action tomorrow.  In the mean time see what RJ had to say or check the latest standings on the contest scoreboard.

Grape Madness Round #2: Chateau Chevalier vs. Fetzer

 Grape Madness Round #2: Blind TastingGrape Madness Round #2: Chateau Chevalier vs. Fetzer
The second round in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney continues with the (1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($15) vs. the (3) 2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Before we jump in, let’s look back on the first round match-ups to see how these two got here:

  • The Chateau Chevalier blew the Trader Joe’s Coastal Cab off the floor in round one 91-70.  My notes recall a balanced and smooth palate with dark fruits and hints of tannins and oak leading to a nice lingering finish.  I remember this wine as humble, being restrained when the winemaker could have pushed the envelope.  Well done.  Looking forward to seeing how it holds up in the 2nd round.
  • The Fetzer had a hard fought battle with the Sterling in the 1st round gritting out an 88-86 victory.  My notes recollect a wine that starts tight and tart but softened nicely with the souriness fading into the background.  Good structure hides other potential weaknesses and the almost chewy finish leaves you with pleasant thoughts.   Not much depth here but shaping up nicely.  This wine is one dimensional but it is a good one dimension.  Going to be a tough rode to hoe against the one seed.

With pregame covered let’s see how it went down live via twitter.

jasonswineblog: Tip off in #GrapeMadness. Fetzer comes out soft and Chateau Chevalier is off and running again with a lead of 29-16 12:48 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Chateau Chevalier is to complex for Fetzer with dark, brambly fruit and a chewy finish on the glass.44-27 5:02 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Fetzer having a hard time mounting a comeback. Just too one dimensional. Down 69-50 12:00 left in the 2nd.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Chateau Chevalier cruises to the Elite Eight over Fetzer winning 91-78.

As you can see above this one was never in doubt and was decided shortly after the nose.  For the Fetzer to win it would have required a disappointing effort from its counterpart which likely would have likely exposed it in round one.  Either way it didn’t go down and Chateau Chevalier played the UConn roll enjoying its cake walk to the Elite Eight.

2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($16): Wins the 2nd game in a row shortly after tip off Depth is readily apparent.  Dark fruit on the nose.  Brambly cherry flavors lead to a nice lingering finish.  Liking this one a lot.  Looking forward to sharing it with RJ next round.  Rating: Wow

2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6): Still possesses a nice nose.  On the palate you find subtle, dark fruits that hold together nicely until the sourness comes through on the tannic finish.  A good wine but not in the same league as the Chateau Chevalier.  Heavyweight vs. lightweight with Fetzer on the wrong end.  This is a good, simple one dimensional that is worth $6.  It can protect you against the disappointment of a bad/average $15 bottle but it can’t replace the complexity you are hoping to find.  Rating: Buy It (for what it is)

Grape Madness Round #2: Rosenblum vs. Bogle

 Grape Madness Round #2: Blind TastingGrape Madness Round #2: Rosenblum vs. Bogle
The second round in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney kick off with the (1) 2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zin ($16) vs. the (2) Bogle Old Vine Zin ($10).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Before we jump in, let’s look back on the first round match-ups to see how these two got here:

  • The Rosenblum defeated the Old Moon handily 83-71.  My notes hightlighted that this game was won before the wine hit the glass.  Nice  robust dark fruits on the nose and a palate with a dry, chalky backbone.  With the finish being intially slightly tart and a bit hot but improving with time to leave a warm, comforting tannic tickle lingering.  That said, I mentoned it made me nervous come the second round and that it better bring its “A game”.  Let’s see if it did…
  • The Bogle found itself in a shoot out with the Ravenswood before pulling out a 83-78 victory.  fMy notes here show mentions of range and character with the palate being smooth and well balanced. The mouth-feel was silky with dark, rich fruits with earthy (almost dirt-like) notes. The finish is bold with heavy notes of plum and lasts nicely. It sure sounded like a winner.

With pregame covered let’s get to the real action via my twitter news feed:

jasonswineblog: Tipped off round 2 of #GrapeMadness. Bogle comes out tight (and hot) letting Rosenblum claim an early lead 22-17 11:02 left in the 1st.
jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness the Bogle attack is unbalanced but their star players are keeping it close. Rosenblum still leads 39-36 2:12 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum silky smooth shooting and strong finish Bogle is facing a big test. Rosenblum leads 56-52 15:55 left

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum intensity is exposing the Bogle lack of (mouth) feel for the game. 79-73 4:02 left…

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness The Rosenblum chalky smooth finish was to much for the sour/tart notes in the Bogle. Rosenblum wins a tight one. 90-87.


This one was close to the end but Rosenblum held on tight to head to the elite eight. I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zinfandel ($16):The differences between these two was slight but noticeable.  This one had a rich, dark fruit nose with earthy and barrel components.  On the palate it was silky smooth with dense, lush dark fruit flavors leading to a chalky finish with slight tannins.  The heat from 2 days prior was happily no longer present.  A nice bottle of wine.  Everything a typical quality Zinfandel should be.  It will be interesting to see how it pairs off against the winner of the Cabernet bracket.  Feel free to grab this one if the fancy strikes while I scout for something cheaper or better for you.  Rating: Pricey

2006 Bogle Old Vine Zin ($10): Again initially the differences were slight but this one had a green pepper component as part of the rich, full fruit.  On the palate it was just as smooth and balance but I was surprised by a souriness on the finish that I didn’t recall from two days earlier, though it did linger nicely.  I liked this bottle a lot better in the first round when the earthiness was present and before the plums on the finish turned sour.  Rating: Pricey

Grape Madness Round #1: Chateau Chevalier vs. Trader Joe’s Coastal Cab

 Grape Madness Round #1: Blind Tasting Grape Madness Round #1: Chateau Chevalier vs. Trader Joes Coastal Cab

The last game in the inaugural Trader Joe’s bracket of Grape Madness was the (1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($15) vs. the (4) 2006 Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet ($4).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Here is what I had on my mind before the bottles hit the table:

  • Chateau Chevalier: As I purveyed the rare air of the top shelf many options availed themselves with a $20 price cap. This one appeared to be from a smaller winery and with a Spring Mountain AVA stood out from the crowd.
  • Trader Joe’s Coastal: On the cheap end I had to go with Trader Joe’s private labels. Once that was determined this one was an easy choice as it is made by Castoro Cellars. I had heard some good blog buzz on their offerings so decided to give this one a ticket to the dance.

With pregame covered let’s get to the action Here is the play by play from twitter:

jasonswineblog: Game 2 in the #GrapeMadness TJ’s Cab Bracket is underway. Chateau Chevalier running away from TJ’s Coastal Cab. 17-5. 14:12 left in the 1st

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Chateau Chevalier is showing great structure and depth. TJ’s Coastal Cab is overwhelmed! 39-19 3:57 to go in the 1st

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Boring game! Chateau Chevalier pummels TJ’s Coastal Cab though it shows some life late. Chateau Chevalier wins 91-70

This one was never in doubt as the Chateau Chevalier played at a different level in every aspect of the game from buzzer to buzzer.  I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet ($4): On the nose this appears thin showing sour cherry notes that are drowned out by barrel odors.  It is immediately apparent that this bottle is not a product of the fields but rather was concocted in a winery laboratory.  Hard to believe these two wines had anything in common.  Which I had statistics on yield per acre or something that may help me better explain the disparity.  Perhaps the age of vines?  Guessing the care in wine making was directed towards making something drinkable, not special.  Thus this one could taste like many other “generic” offerings on the market today.  Rating: Skip It

2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cabernet ($16): Off the bat this one is better on the nose showing rich, aromatic notes of dark fruit.  On the palate it is balanced and smooth with just a hint of tannins and a dose of oak that leads to a nice lasting finish.  You find this wine to be restrained, holding itself back but at the same time ready to go with you whenever your taste buds may be ready.  I am looking forward to another bottle of this in the second round.  Rating: Wow-

Grape Madness Round #1: Sterling vs. Fetzer

 Grape Madness Round #1: Blind Tasting Grape Madness Round #1: Sterling vs. Fetzer
The next showdown in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney was the (2) 2006 Sterling Central Coast Cabernet ($12) vs. the (3) 2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Here is what I had on my mind before the bottles hit the table:

  • Sterling: This one was added as a grudge match. Back in December I had a blind tasting with some friends and a bottle of Sterling took down one of my much more expensive Cabernet’s. Let’s see how it performs this time around…
  • Fetzer: This one popped out given my recent experience with the Dynamic Vineyards offerings which are tied to Fetzer via Ceago Vinegarden. Fetzer calls themselves “The Earth Friendly Wine”, let’s see how they do with the palate…

With pregame covered let’s get to the action Here is the play by play from twitter:

jasonswineblog: Tip off in the #GrapeMadness TJ’s Cab bracket. Slow start (on the nose) for both the Fetzer and Sterling, tied 8-8 15:40 left in the 1st…

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Fetzer and Sterling both stuggling a bit in the mid (palate) court game. Late 1st, Fetzer up 33-31 with 2:50 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Sterlings pulls ahead with dry, tickly tannins expose Fetzer lack of depth. Is a nice simple structure enough? 9:11 left to go

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness The Fetzer pulls even with soft tannins passing off to a chewy finish. The Sterling must answer quickly. 74-74 with 2:48 left

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Sterling ended up playing to tight and the simple straight forward structure of the Fetzer held them off. Fetzer wins 88-86.

This one almost headed to overtime before Fetzer prevailed as the clock expired.  Good thing as I am sure with more time (read years, not seconds) the Sterling would have proved a much tougher competitor.  I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6): Initially a muted nose.  On the palate you find red, sour fruit that shows a nice structure.  Within minutes you can see this is softening nicely with the tartness fading.  Not much depth here but shaping up nicely.  Again good structure hides some potential weaknesses and the almost chewy finish leaves you with pleasant thoughts.  That said it could use a little more fruit to balance it out. This one is made to drink now.  Rating: Buy It

2006 Sterling Central Coast Cabernet ($12): Little nose here and starts extremely tight.  On the palate you are greeted by light, tart fruit (cherries) that last throughout becoming interlaced with some mint and similar herbs.  Starting to loosen but still seems unbalanced.  The tart cherries lengthen and lead to a tickly tannin finish.  In the end, this one may need some years.  I’m not willing to spend the money to find out.  Rating: Pricey

Grape Madness Round #1: Bogle vs. Ravenswood

 Grape Madness Round #1: Blind Tasting Grape Madness Round #1: Bogle vs. Ravenswood
The second showdown in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney was the (2) Bogle Old Vine Zin ($10) vs. the (3) 2006 Ravenswood Vinters Blend Zin ($8).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Here is what I had on my mind before the bottles hit the table:

  • Bogle: Coming fresh off my experience with their Petite Sirah I immediately had title hopes for this one. Can it deliver?
  • Ravenswood: Lots of people really like this wine. While it’s nice I’ve never understood the allure. I thought going blind would be a good way to see if this could rise beyond the mediocrity (meant in a good way, this is not a bad wine) I had permanently affixed to it.

With pregame covered let’s get to the main event. Here is how it went down on twitter:

jasonswineblog: Game 2 of #GrapeMadness has tipped off. The Ravenswood (nose) is showing nicely and grabbed an early lead 5-4 with 18:25 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Bogle has responded with a balanced (fruit) attack, this one is back and forth. Bogle leads 14-12 with 14:09 left in the 1st

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Evenly matched though Ravensood is starting to fall apart on (the finish) defense. Bogle is up 39-36 with 0:38 left in the 1st

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Ravenswood comes out a bit sour, Bogle is shooting silky smooth and jumps to a lead early in the 2nd with 15:45 remaining

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Ravenswood is hanging tough but feeling the heat (on the finish). Can’t seem to close the gap, 64-58 6:02 left in the 2nd

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Looks like the Bogle has too much character to let this one slip away. A rich, hearty effort. They lead 77-71 1:15 left to go

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness The Bogle was too complex (smooth, dark rich fruit) for the Ravenswood to masks its flaws (tart, thin finish) Bogle wins 83-78


This one was tight down to the wire but when the buzzer blew and smoke cleared the Bogle was headed for a second round match up with the Rosenblum. I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Ravenswood Vinters Blend Zin ($8): This one starts off nice on the nose and the palate before it falls apart on the finish bringing loads of heat. This quickly disappeared when paired with the turkey meatloaf on the table. What it left behind was a nice smooth, chalky wine with bold fruits but now instead of the hot finish you find it unexpectedly tart and thin, even a bit acidic. For $8 I’m trying something else. If you are a Ravenswood fan don’t let that sway you as I have yet to “connect” with their wines. Rating: 12th bottle

2006 Bogle Old Vine Zin ($10): As far back as the nose I noted that this one showed more range and character than the other wine that was on the table in a brown bag. On the palate it continued to distinguish itself being smooth and well balanced. The mouth-feel was silky with dark, rich fruits with earthy (almost dirt-like) notes. The finish is bold with heavy notes of plum and lasts nicely. You can count me a fan but at ten bones I’m not buying more than a bottle at a time. Rating: Pricey

Grape Madness Round #1: Rosenblum vs. Old Moon

 Grape Madness Round #1: Blind Tasting Grape Madness Round #1: Rosenblum vs. Old Moon
The first showdown in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney was the (1) 2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zin ($16) vs. the (4) 2006 Old Moon Old Vine Zin ($5)

Before jumping in, if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind. Well single blind for those that want to get particular. Before these wines were opened here were my preconceived notions of each:

  • Rosenblum: I’m a long time member of the Rosenblum wine club. At Trader Joe’s this one was proudly sporting a hand written tag that said Wine Spectator scored it 83 points. I’ve since learned (from @robertdwyer) that the score belonged to the ’05 version of this one. One other thing on the Rosenblum. Perhaps they should be immediately disqualified for their “enter birthday” gateway on their website (which you may have already met if you clicked above). How stupid can you be?
  • Old Moon: I had tried this one previously and was on the fence.  @tlmorgon is a big fan so it made the selection.  Cruising around the web I got the sense that the ’05 was much better than the ’06 in many peoples opinion.

With that squared away let’s get to tipoff.  For that let’s take a peek over to my twitter feed to get the play by play:

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness has tipped off. Rosenblum is off to an early lead up 9-2 on the Old Moon with 16:30 left in the first half…

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Rosenblum‘s rich, dark, fruity palate distancing itself from the Old Moon “plonkish” feel. 39-24 3:45 left in the first half

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Is it true the ’06 Rosenblum Paso Robles got 83 pts from Wine Spectator? Hanging to the lead, 53-44 12:10 left in the 2nd half

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Old Moon is making a comeback, the 35-70 year old vines needed a wake up call. Getting tight! 69-64 3:25 left in the 2nd half

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Too many quality players for Rosenblum. The Old Moon was over matched. Good game but never in doubt, Rosenblum wins 83-71

And just like that the buzzer sounded and the Rosenblum moved on to the second round to await its show down versus the winner of the Bogle/Ravenswood game. I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel ($5): This one started off “plonkish”.  Closed nose coming through super hot.  Seemed like just another wine early on and left me wondering when the “35-70 year old vines” mentioned on the bottle were going to express themselves.  Initially it seemed to be trying hard to be something it was not.  After 45 minutes or so the heat blew off and the wine improved.  Still everything here is muted, some pepper, some dark fruit and a unbalanced finish. Perhaps the Vinturi would have helped here, thoughts Bob?  At the end of day I felt it was unfortunate that they buried these “old vines” under all that winemaking.  Rating: 12th bottle

2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zinfandel ($16): The difference between these two was readily apparent on the nose with the Rosenblum being much more aromatic showing robust dark fruit and floral notes.  On the palate you get rich fruit and oak notes with blackberry shining through on top of a dry, chalky backbone.  The finish was intially slightly tart and a bit hot but improved with time to leave a warm, comforting tannic tickle lingering.  That said, it makes me nervous for this one come the second round.  It better bring its “A game” then.  Rating: Pricey